Do dreams and nightmares influence the work of writers? Does writing influence the dreams experienced by authors? How does reading fiction prevent an overfitted brain?

There are several theories about why we dream, the different types of dreams we experience, and how our waking thoughts affect the dreams we experience.

Some experts believe that dreaming may help with processing our emotions. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to dream about momentous events that occur while we’re awake. So yes, a plot, scene, and/or characters (good or evil) developed during the daytime could certainly wriggle their way into a writer’s brain as they sleep.

There is a theory, the continuity hypothesis, stating that most dreams reflect the same notions that concern us while we’re awake. Analyzing those recurring dreams and images could help to identify our biggest worries and fears.

Some researchers theorize that dreams play a role in forming and storing memories, including long-term memory, by processing and sorting information received while we’re awake.

Overfitted Brain Hypothesis

It’s likely that our brains become so used to receiving ubiquitous data day-in and day-out that our minds become desensitized/overfit to the “same old-same old” routine of daily life. Animals under-sample their environment, which makes their brains susceptible to overfitting.

Problems caused by overfitting can be resolved by adding hallucinatory data to our thoughts as the brain goes about its business of learning.

However, the brain can’t truly fine-tune its learning while we’re awake because injecting the hallucinatory information needed to do so might cause or create unpleasant consequences. Therefore, the brain adjusts by having us dream when we’re asleep. Dreams and nightmares are the brain’s method of inserting hallucinatory information as a means of preventing overfitting.

The overfitted brain hypothesis suggests that dreams purposely insert random information into our brains to prevent the desensitization caused by the humdrum routines of our everyday lives. Professor Erik Hoel of Tufts University believes that “dreams happen to make our understanding of the world less simplistic and more well-rounded.”

Professor Hoel’s Overfitted Brain Hypothesis delves deeper into the mere function of dreams, though, such as exploring the notion that works of fiction are artificial dreams. Therefore, time spent reading and/or writing books or watching television is not simply a break from learning, but rather a necessary adjustment of our minds.


“It is the very strangeness of dreams in their divergence from waking experience that gives them their biological function.” – Professor Erik Hoel


Dreams and even nightmares are often great fodder for a story or scene. Sometimes, those nocturnal fantasies are absolutely bizarre and stressful, while other times they’re fun and exciting, or warm and comforting. Occasionally, our dreams involve wonky characters who zip around inside our minds as they go about doing whatever is necessary to move their stories forward. They’re often the perfect protagonist or antagonist for a book.

Likewise, some “characters” found in novels are equally suitable as cast members for appearances during our nocturnal bouts of shut-eye.

A questionable murder (top image), to say the least, is a perfect example of the characters who, for some reason, show up in my mind from time to time. However, these guys often come to me while my eyes are open and I’m wide-freakin-awake. Yep, my brain is a weird one. So are the other characters found inside my ever-working twisted mind. Such as …

The Renowned 100-Yard Em Dash

The em dash is perhaps the most versatile of all punctuation marks.


Whatcha’ Gonna Do ‘Bout the Puppies?

Colon owners consider semi-colons as mixed breeds, therefore they prefer to keep the two apart. This is to prevent an unfortunate encounter that could result in large litters of periods and commas.

Unfortunate encounters could produce large litters of periods and commas


Do You Have Your Ellipsis Glasses?

Punctuation marks have been known (in my mind) to join together to antagonize the sun.

Periods, in a grouping of three, join together to …


Braces for Junior

Braces are also known as curly brackets “{ }”.


Quotation Marks Have Places to Go!

Commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks in American English; dashes, colons, and semicolons almost always go outside the quotation marks; question marks and exclamation marks sometimes go inside, sometimes stay outside. ~ Grammerly 


Stop Shouting

It’s always best to listen to questions first, before responding


WHY???

 

This year has been an especially a tough one in our area of the country for those of us who suffer from allergies associated with pollen . So, when I went bed the night of July 31st, I paid no attention to my itchy eyes. After all, the irritation and redness were typical reactions from exposure to the plant particles floating about in the air. No big deal. Or so I thought.

The next morning, to my horror, l awakened to discover that I’d lost most of my vision. Everything was a wall of “dark blur.” I couldn’t recognize things once familiar to me, including my wife Denene, and even my own reflection in a mirror. To make matter worse, my eyes were fire engine red, quite painful, and swollen. Bright light was like a thousand shards of broken glass jammed into my eyes.

I hoped that whatever caused the trouble would go away as quickly as it came, but things only grew worse, So Denene took me to see our physician. One look, though, and he sent me to an ophthalmologist’s office where a handful of doctors, assisted by physician’s associates/assistants, began the process of applying various eyedrops, each with a function of its own—numbing, staining, dilating, constricting, etc. They poked, prodding and shined bright lights of various colors and intensities into my eyes, all while talking among themselves as if I weren’t sitting two feet away. In the meantime, irritation- and pain-induced tears rolled down my cheeks, which were absorbed by the mask I wore, a requirement, of course.

The experience of having so many medical folks doing this and that to you while you can’t see them or the instruments they held in their hands was extremely unsettling. Meanwhile, they discovered a scattering of small ulcers across the surface of my eyes, including across the pupils.

At the end of the appointment, still puzzled about the cause of my troubles, the lead physician rolled the dice and decided on a medication to try for one week. Well, it didn’t work and the condition grew much worse. I. Couldn’t. See.

A specialist was summoned who identified the problem right away, a virus, he surmised, that had likely been dormant in my system since childhood. He prescribed numerous medications in the forms of eyedrops and oral meds. This came after the specialist informed the doctor who’d been treating me that the medications he’d prescribed were not the correct drugs and that they’d actually caused more harm than good. He was genuinely concerned that the virus had spread to the optic nerve which would/could cause permanent blindness. Fortunately, it was limited to the surface of the eye … this time. I later learned the specialist was actually the boss of the entire place, which explained the instant change in demeanor whenever he entered the exam room. I’m thankful the specialist/boss took charge of my case. Had he not I may not be in the position to pen this article.

After a week or so of taking the proper oral meds and plethora of different eyedrops and uncomfortable in-office procedures to  remove “things” from the surface of my eyes, my vision slowly improved and the pain, swelling, and irritation began to subside. Bright lights of any type were still a huge cause of discomfort; therefore, I kept my eyes closed or covered. And my vision was still blurry. To give you an idea of how poorly I could see at this stage, try closing your eyes to the point where you can barely see through your eyelashes. That was a big improvement from day one. Needless to say, using a computer or even watching television was still out of the question.

A week or so later, though, I was able to type and post a message about my eyesight on Facebook by enlarging the page to the point where there were only 6-8 words on the screen, and they were still fuzzy. But seeing 3″ tall extremely fuzzy letters, well, that was a welcome advancement. Still could’t recognize my own reflection in a mirror, but it was progress.

As days passed and with the help of the new medications things turned around and my vision slowly returned to where it is today. Still not normal, but okay.

The doctor theorized that a medication I take may have triggered the virus flareup. Unfortunately, the medication is one that’s part of my required daily medications. Therefore, I’m now taking two new medications that will hopefully prevent the return of the virus. I am to take these medications for life, two eyedrops each day along with a tablet the size of a 1964 Volkswagen hubcap. It’s a small price to pay if it prevents blindness.

Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I’ve not been intentionally rude by not replying to messages. Hopefully, things will continue to improve as days pass and I’ll soon return to blogging regularly, hosting WPA Online classes (exciting new classes are in the works and will be available very soon), and handling other important business.

Thanks to everyone who wrote to express their concern and to wish me well. I couldn’t read your messages until recently, but when I did, well, very much appreciated.


“What A Wonderful World”

Louis Armstrong
 
I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
 
I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
 
The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
Of people going by
I see friends shaking hands
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying
“I love you”
 
I hear babies cry
I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more
Than I’ll never know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
 
Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world
 
Oh yeah


Cap’n Rufus “Tater” Jenkins of the Cornsqueezins’ County Sheriff’s Office had a long night answering call after call—he-saids, she-saids, chasing a half-nekkid Peeping Tom through back yards and alleys, wrestlin’ with a couple of drunks whose scuffle started over who got the last swig from a bottle of Strawberry Hill, kids spray-painting stop signs, and the guy who insisted he was Jesus and attempted to prove it by damning Tater to hell a few dozen times after he refused to give the man ten dollars for a hamburger he promised to repay on Tuesday.

Cap’n Rufus “Tater” Jenkins

Yep, a looonnnggg night and it was only half over when Jimmy Bob “Peanut” Lawson, Jr. decided to join forces with his good friend Jack Daniels to blacken both his wife’s eyes.

Well, Erlene, the wife, wasn’t about to stand for that nonsense so she poked ‘ol Peanut in the gut a couple of times with a dull kitchen knife. Didn’t break the skin, much, mind you, but the act was just enough to send Peanut off the deep end. Oh, he was plenty mad about it, a yellin’ and screamin’ and a stompin’ his Doc Martens across the linoleum, and kicking at Porkchop, the family’s adopted and long ago retired police dog. But Porkchop, having been to this freak show one too many times in the past, was a nervous wreck and knew to stay six or seven dog-dish-lengths away from his master’s size twelves.

Porkchop, having seen his better days, religiously adheres to the seven dog-dish rule of thumb.

After about ten minutes of plate, bowl, and pot-and-pan-throwing, one of the kids, a snot-nosed, freckle-faced boy, aptly named Junior Lawson, Jr., of around ten or so years of age, picked up the cordless and punched the speed dial button for 911.

So Cap’n Rufus Jenkins showed up with lights and siren blazing and blaring to all get out. And Peanut, a Friday night regular, met him in the dirt and weed-infested driveway leading to the rusty single-wide, huffing and puffing like an old-time, coal-fired locomotive engine. In each hand, a backyard chicken he’d been choking in preparation of the Sunday noon meal.

Peanut is well-known in his town as a backyard chicken-choker.

Now here’s where things could get a little dicey. So it’s best to run down the checklist before diving right in. You know, size him up. Is Peanut armed this time? Is he really going to attack? Or, is all that chest-thumping and Tarzan-yelling just a show for the neighbors? Well, Cap’n Jenkins better find out in a hurry because Peanut’s starting to spin like the Tasmanian Devil.

So how can police tell if this guy means business, or not?  Well, there are a few telltale signs that could help evaluate the situation since weapons and other items that are capable of puncturing your flesh, bones, and organs should be your first concern.

Here are some common indicators that Peanut, or the cousin visiting from the big city who’s standing off to the side of the trailer, is carrying a hidden gun or knife. Some are obvious, while others … not so much.

The first is a clear indicator.

Cousin Jimmy Buck from Swamp Holler, West Virginia

Signs the Suspect May Be Carrying a Weapon

1. It’s 97 degrees outside and Peanut, standing smack-dab in the center of the intersection at 9th and Main, is wearing his heavily-insulated, knee-length, blood-stained orange hunting coat. Yes, Einstein, he’s probably wearing it to hide a sawed-off shotgun, the one Daddy gave him for Christmas when he was three.

2. The tail of his flannel shirt is out, but one side is riding higher than the other. A great sign that he’s wearing a weapon on the “high side.”

3. Even wearing a shirt tail on the outside is a sign that he might be carrying a weapon. Unfortunately, it’s also a sign known to bad guys, which means they might recognize you as an undercover officer.

Signs that Peanut is about to attempt to stomp your butt into a mudhole

1. For some unknown reason, many offenders/would-be attackers seem to feel the need to rip off their shirts prior to delivering the first blow. So, when a drunk starts ripping cloth and zinging buttons across the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, well, that might be a good time to reach for the pepper spray because he’s subtly announced his intentions.

The standard shirt-ripping ritual is usually accompanied by lots of top-of-the-lung screaming and yelling, especially nasty comments about your wife and mother. Nasty comments about the family dog are optional.

They sometimes decide to rip off their shirts before engaging in battle. Other times, if the mood to fight strikes ’em just right, they’ll throw punches while wearing nothing but …

2. Another clue that a “Peanut” is about “go for it” is when he starts glancing at a particular spot on your body, like your throat, stomach, or even a knee. Instantly, you should go on alert for a possible strike to that area because the subject is announcing his intentions and he’s ready to pounce. Watch the eyes, for sure, but more importantly watch the hands.

3. “Peanut” constantly glances to a spot behind you, or to a place off to your right just out of your line of sight. Watch out, because his partner may be approaching for a rear ambush. And, his partner just might be Mrs. “Peanut.” Yes, even though her “loving husband” had just moments ago beat the ever-loving snot out of her she’ll often defend her man until the bitter end. Unfortunately, the end sometimes results in a funeral.

These quick glances are also good indicators that the subject has a hidden weapon nearby. For example, you’ve stopped good old “Peanut” for drunk driving and he’s constantly glancing toward the glove compartment. Well, there’s a good chance that a weapon or other illegal items are concealed there.

Eyes. WATCH. THE. EYES.

The Spud family

4. The Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home – You arrive on scene and you approach Peanut, who is standing still, staring off into space. His jaw is clenched and he’s sweating profusely, even though you’re both standing in two feet of freshly-fallen New England snow (New England snow, to me, is the coldest snow on the planet). He doesn’t respond to you in any way, but you see the anger rising—face growing redder by the second, veins poking out on his forehead, eyes bulging. Yeah, you get the idea. Believe me, it is time to take a step back and start pulling every tool you’ve got on your duty belt because this guy’s getting ready to blow. Silence is definitely not golden in this case.

5. Peanut might be a “I’m not going to look at you” kind of personality. This is another indicator that an assault may be on the way. If he’s staring at place on the ground, refusing to listen and obey your verbal commands, then be prepared for an attack. At the very least, be prepared for a battle when the time comes to snap on the cuffs.

I guess a good rule of thumb is to always assume the worst, hope for the best. Sometimes , though, Mrs. Peanut becomes fed up with her abusive husband.

 

I’ve never been fond of working traffic details—running radar, crash investigations, issuing parking citations, standing in intersections during the pouring rain, wildly waving my arms and hands to send vehicles on their way, all while blasting tweets from a tin whistle, and the like.

Patrol was an assignment I preferred and I suppose that’s because of the diversity of calls. One minute you’re helping an elderly person who’s locked himself out of his house, and the next you’re wading chest deep into a pile of brawling drunks, or searching an abandoned and crumbling warehouse for a murderer on the run.

I suppose one of the major reasons I grew to despise stopping cars due to high rates of speed, recklessness, and the general failing to obey traffic laws was, well, the outright lack of common sense of some drivers. I’ve long thought that Driving While Stupid (DWS) should be included among the many traffic laws in the books.

A motor vehicle, while traveling along the roadways, is basically a great big, fat, projectile that’s just as capable of killing people as any gun. In fact, the chances of survival are perhaps a bit greater when hit by a bullet. Don’t believe it? Try standing in the path of a car roaring at you at 80 mph and see how well you fare when it strikes you, even with a glancing blow. A bullet, on the other hand, may simply pass through a drooping love handle leaving you with nothing more than a couple of stitches.

But let’s back up a bit to stupid drivers. In fact, let’s narrow the category down to distracted-stupid drivers. I once saw a headline in the San Jose Mercury News that read, Woman Painting Toenails Gets First Prize For Distracted Driving. To quote the writer (Gary Richards – Mr Roadshow), “I saw a woman PAINTING HER TOENAILS as she drove eastbound on the 237 freeway. She had her left foot up on the dashboard in front of the A/C vent so the cool, dry air would blow across her toes, and she was painting her toenails as she drove during the afternoon commute.”

And you thought texting while driving was bad!

Toenail painting is definitely not an activity that should take place while driving to work. But this lady is not the only commuter guilty of driving while distracted. I, as well as other police officers, have a ton of “distracted driving” stories we could share, and they’re not all about cellphones. A few of the ones I’ve seen and issued a summons for, include …

  • Pouring milk and cereal into a bowl and then eating it while driving in heavy traffic. All while driving beside my marked police car.
  • Eating a bowl of ice cream at 75 mph.
  • Applying full face makeup with one hand while holding a large mirror in the other.
  • Reading a book (the book was propped against the steering wheel). This, at speeds varying from 45 to 80 mph, on a major interstate highway.
  • Two nude couples having sex in the same car, while driving at speeds over 60 mph. Yes, the driver was one of the four people in the car.
  • One totally nude man … um … enjoying his time alone.
  • A man driving his expensive car while a nude woman stood on the seat with a leg on either side of him, with the top half of her body through the sunroof. She smiled and waved at us. I was training a rookie at the time. He was driving when we switched on the blue lights.
  • A man wearing a corrections uniform driving a car late at night on a deserted stretch of interstate. His passenger, a totally nude male who was also a corrections officer, was handcuffed to the car door. His uniform was on the backseat in a crumpled pile.
  • A teenager sat on the top of the backrest with his upper body through the open sunroof. He was using his feet to drive while a buddy operated the gas and brake from the passenger side. There were four other teens in the backseat, along with a cooler full of cheap beer and a rear floorboard littered with empty bottles.
  • A teen driver passed by me doing a little over 100 mph. On each of the passenger window sills (windows down) sat a teen (boys and girls) with their bare rear ends hanging outside for all the world to see.
  • A car zipped by me traveling well above the posted speed limit. What really caught my eye was the large German Shepherd behind the wheel. When I stopped the car I was somewhat relieved to see a very small human woman situated behind and beneath her “lap dog.”
  • The passenger of a small pickup truck who wore a horse’s head (mask).

  • The nude couple having sex in the rear area of an SUV, with back door in the up position. By the way, the description of the back door in the up position fits both the vehicle and one of the parties engaged in the public sexual activity. It was not a pretty sight.

Finally, the day I learned that Santa no longer employed reindeer as part of his holiday staff.

How about you? What’s your worst stupid driver story?


Presented by Writers’ Police Academy Online – “Behavioral Clues at Crime Scenes”

June 26, 2022

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. EST

Registration is OPEN for this fascinating live, online seminar taught by Dr. Katherine Ramsland. Session covers staging, profiling, character development, and more!

Sign up today at writerspoliceacademy.online

While you’re there, please take a moment to sign up for the latest updates, news, tips, tactics, and announcements of upcoming courses and classes.

About Dr. Katherine Ramsland

Dr. Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she is the Assistant Provost. She has appeared on more than 200 Dr. Katherine Ramslandcrime documentaries and magazine shows, is an executive producer of Murder House Flip, and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. The author of more than 1,500 articles and 69 books, including The Forensic Science of CSI, The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, and Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer, she was co-executive producer for the Wolf Entertainment/A&E documentary based on the years she spent talking with Rader. Dr. Ramsland consults on death investigations, pens a blog for Psychology Today, and is writing a fiction series based on a female forensic psychologist.


In addition to the Writers’ Police Academy Online website moving to a new server, The Graveyard Shift is officially and finally up and running on the same server. Its new look is underway. The Writers’ Police
Academy is next to make the move and to receive an overhaul.


By the way, there’s still time to sign up for the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy!

Click here to view 2022 WPA hands-on sessions

If you’ve already registered please reserve your hotel rooms asap!

Reserve Your Room

Hilton Appleton Hotel Paper Valley
333 W College Ave, Appleton, Wi. 54911 – Phone: 920-733-8000
When calling, request reservations for the Writers Police Academy Block or, if reserving online, select dates of stay and enter group code 0622WRPA.

Online Reservations


Writers’ Police Academy Merch

Writers’ Police Academy merchandise is available through our Zazzle store, including the 2022 t-shirts in a variety of colors.

Coming later this week to the WPA’s Zazzle store: NEW 2022 official Writers’ Police Academy merch – Notebooks, posters, glass tumblers, t-shirts. Remember, t-shirts are not available at the event this year, so please order in advance and wear and bring your gear to the WPA!
More items to be added to the store within the next few days.

)official 2022 WPA Notebook

 

2022 WPA t-shirts

 

2022 WPA poster with slogan

 

2022 Limited edition 16 0z. glass tumbler

Click here to view the current selections. 


Together we can better the world of crime fiction, one scene at a time.

Every department has at least one officer who doesn’t quite beat the same drum as the others. His, or her, rhythm is slightly off. They can’t quite fit in no matter how hard they try. Sure, everyone likes this person, and they don’t really do anything that’s too weird, yet they always seem to do, well dumb stuff.

Enter my friend Franklin and his first experience with, well, this …

The honky-tonk nightclub was situated just outside the city limits. They were open for business on Saturday nights only and the place was so popular it didn’t take long for the gravel parking lot to fill to capacity with souped-up cars and dented and dusty pickup trucks with gun racks mounted in the rear windows.

Male patrons slicked their hair with Brylcreem or Butch Wax and they wore their best jeans, Stetson hats, dinner-plate-size belt buckles shaped like the state of Texas or a gun of some sort, and spit-shined cowboy boots made of cow, snake, or gator hide, or a combination of two or more. Sometimes the fancier snake hide adorned boots were reserved for Sunday attire along with a store-bought Sears and Roebuck striped suit and pearly-white socks. Many strapped hunting knives to their belts—their handles carved from deer antlers or hunks of wood cut from trees that once stood on family land.

Women curled and teased their hair until it reached heights only before seen by birds, power company linemen, and airline pilots, and then they loaded it with enough Aqua Net to hold it tightly in place for an entire evening of two-stepping and do-si-doing. They slipped into their finest square-dancing dresses and they waited on their front porches for one of those gussied-up farm trucks to pull into the driveway, and when it did … well, “Yipee ki-yay” the night had begun.

This club, the 95 Dance Hall, allowed brown-bagging (bring your own liquor), otherwise known as BYOB—bring your own bottle—because they didn’t have a license to sell alcohol. but they did supply ice and various mixers/chasers. The ice was freshly cracked from 50 lb blocks purchased that afternoon from the local ice and coal business.

Club workers filled galvanized washtubs with the ice and it was free for the taking, with the price of admission. In addition to counter-wiping and keeping a layer of freshly-scattered sawdust on the floor (the ground wood made for a nice “slicker’d-up dance surface, so I was told), the dancehall staff—the wife of the club owner, their kids, and the wives of the steel guitar sliders and banjo pickers—refilled the large metal containers throughout the evening as the frozen chunks of water melted.

By 10 p.m, the 95 Dance Hall was flat-out jumpin’. The house band, the Virginia Barn Dance Boys, was in high gear—fiddling, steel-guitaring, banjo-pickin’, and yodelin’ to all get out. Fancy dresses twirled. Scuffed boot heels clicked and tapped against the wood flooring. Drinks disappeared. Bottles emptied. Vision blurred and speech slurred. Voices and laughter grew louder and louder. The music became more frantic. The drummer rat-a-tatted at machine gun pace … And then the inevitable happened.

Somebody winked at somebody’s best girl and as quick as a fresh green grass goes through a goose, the place erupted into a free-for-all. Fists. Chairs. More fists. More chairs. Then, a knife. And then some blood. And then a call to the sheriff’s office. “HELP!”

Now’s a good time to introduce you to our department’s “one guy.” Remember the description above … doesn’t quite beat the same drum, etc.?

Okay, this is Franklin (not his real name, of course), a thin black man who was was quiet and somewhat shy, especially around women. He rarely spoke unless spoken to. He wore thick glasses with black rims and his uniform, the brown over tan, was always, without fail, neatly pressed with creases sharp enough to peel an apple and shoes so shiny they reflected moonlight on a cloudy night.

Franklin did not like to get his clothes dirty. In fact, he freaked out if a speck of mud marred the surface of his shoes, and he’d stop whatever he was doing to clean and polish them. He wore a tie even when it wasn’t required. And he did not, absolutely did not, would not, nor ever, exceeded the speed limit. Even when responding to the worst of the worst emergency calls. 55 meant 55 and by God 55 is where the needle stopped. Dead on the double nickels. Not one mile per hour more.

Franklin was my friend. A good friend too. But he was a bit quirky, to say the least.

I’d seen Franklin heading to murders-in-progress with red lights flashing and spinning and flickering, with siren wailing and screaming like a baby with a handful of thumbtacks in their diaper, but the posted speed limit was 45 mph so …

Franklin was an extremely cautious driver in other ways too. He utilized every safe driving tactic taught to him at the academy and he always drove with both hands on the wheel, one positioned at ten and the other at two. His seat was pulled nearly all the way forward and even then he leaned forward so close to the steering wheel that it nearly rubbed his chin at every curve and turn (he couldn’t see very well at night was his explanation for leaning close to the windshield). Blind as a bat is what we all thought.

This particular night there were four of us working the late shift—Franklin, two others, and me—and we were all dispatched to the “fight with weapons call.” Having been to a few of those calls at the nightclub over the years I knew we’d be outnumbered and I knew we’d have to fight, going toe-to-toe with practically every bumpkin in the county who used the opportunity as a free pass to punch a deputy . Therefore, since I’ve never been all that fond of pain, or bleeding, I requested backup from the state police and from a nearby city.

By the time we arrived, the fight had spilled out into the parking lot. So we, three deputies and several backup officers from surrounding jurisdictions, began the task of breaking up the massive brawl, which quickly turned into a “them against us” battle.

We were well into the thick of it when we heard a squalling and yelping siren coming our way. A few seconds later a brown sheriff’s office patrol car rolled slowly into the parking lot with siren and lights still in full “I mean business” mode. It was, of course, Franklin, the fourth member of the night shift.

Seriously, you’ve got to picture this to appreciate it. Fifteen cops and forty or so cowboys going to it in the parking lot. Fists flying, boots kicking, handcuffs clicking, batons swinging, clothing torn and dirty, heads bruised from contact with our lead-filled leather saps and wooden nightsticks, faces bruised and jaws stinging from fists covered with brass knuckles. And Franklin, calmly exiting his police car, then smoothing the wrinkles from his pants before slowly easing toward the massive battle.

Suddenly, it was like he, shiny-shoed Franklin, was sucked into a vacuum. In the blink of an eye, he was pulled into the fracas and was doing his best to restrain, arrest and, well, he was basically doing his best to stop people from hitting him.

We eventually gained control and arrested every fool we could lay our hands on and those troublemakers were hauled away to jail. Those of us who remained on the scene went inside the dance hall to speak with potential witnesses to a couple of pretty nasty stabbings. Franklin was one of the deputies who accompanied me inside.

We were a motley crew to say the least—clothing dirty, shoes scuffed, bloodstains here and there, and cut and bruised and sufficiently battered.

Franklin looked as if he’d been dragged through a hog pen, beaten by club-wielding cave people, and then run through the hand-cranked wringer of his grandmother’s antique washing machine. His glasses sat slightly askew on the bridge of his nose. His upper lip was cut and the lower bruised and swollen.

When we stepped from the darkness into the festive interior of the 95 Dance Hall, the lead guitar player of the Virginia Barn Dance Boys was in the process of calling a square dance. Dancers on the floor dipped and swirled and twirled and ducked and hopped like their lives depended on their actions. They’d paid no attention to what had taken place outside.

The music, if one could call it that, was horrible. The fiddler was busy sawing away at the strings, producing screeches that would cause Poe to lose sleep. The drummer’s timing was off. Way off. First he was a half beat too fast, then his sticks tapped slightly slower than the rest of group’s caterwauling. His right foot pushed the pedal against the bass drum in total out-of-syncness with what his left foot and both hands were trying to do. It was almost if that foot had a mind all it’s own.

The guy on the acoustic guitar apparently had never learned to properly tune his instrument. As a musician myself, the sound tap-danced on the raw ends of my nerves. But the crowd did not care. They were gettin’ it done like dancing was their nine-to-five job. Like the world would end if they didn’t go at it like politicians at an election year fundraiser.

Franklin did not move into the club any further than five feet from the front double wooden doors. He simply stood there blinking his eyes as he looked at the spinning and blinking colored lights. At the dancers. The condensation-covered ice tubs that were now half full of water. Franklin looked like a kid at the circus for the first time.

When we finally wrapped up our investigation and were standing outside in the parking lot beside our respective patrol cars, I asked Franklin if he was okay. His battered lips split into a slightly crooked smile before he said, “I’m fine. It’s just that I’ve never seen so many white people at one time in their own environment. And they were Huck-a-Bucking their asses off. This (he pointed to the club) is just bizarre.”

Franklin shook his head from side to side and turned to walk away, but stopped to look back over his shoulder. He said, “You know I’m going to have nightmares over this, right?” Then he playfully two-stepped back to his car and just before climbing in he raised an arm over his head to give a thumbs-up. He let out a loud, “Yee-Haw!” as he slid into the driver’s seat.

We each stood in silence, and disbelief, that Franklin had displayed some sort of emotion and a bit of humor. It was way out of character for him.

We watched Franklin pull out onto the highway where he sped away, at no more than 45 mph, of course. He tooted his horn twice before rounding the curve that took him out of view.

To this day, whenever I see someone square-dancing on TV I immediately think of Franklin’s descriptive term for those specific gyrations and swirls and twirls.

Huck-A-Bucking, according to Franklin: a traditional dance where participants spin, twirl, stomp, duck, and bow to their partners while semi-following the instructions yelled out to them by a band leader who’s sometimes referred to as a caller. When mixed with alcoholic beverages, huck-a-bucking can quickly switch from fun to fighting. Although, fighting is sometimes considered fun by avid huck-a-buckers. 

Yee-Haw, y’all!

20160224_114510

 

Officer Idu Thebestican feels as if he faces a no-win situation each day he puts on his uniform, and he stopped by today to tell why he feels that way. Here’s what the officer had to say …

Today I found a lost grandmother. She has Alzheimer’s and wandered off into a wooded area near a rocky and steep ravine. I sat with her and held her hand until her family arrived to take her home. You didn’t see that.

I got pretty banged up while breaking up a nasty fight between two large men. They were angry over a ref’s call at a kid’s soccer game. You didn’t see that.

A convenience store was robbed by two masked men carrying handguns. I caught one of the robbers after a five-block foot pursuit. He fired a shot at me but missed. Luckily I was able to wrestle the gun from his hand. You didn’t see that.

You didn’t see that!

Two cars crashed head-on, killing everyone inside. I helped remove the bodies, including one of a tiny baby. You didn’t see that.

A bloody face and a broken arm on an eight-year-old girl. Her intoxicated father did that to her and I was there in time to stop him from killing his daughter. I took the punches that were intended for her. You didn’t see that.

I was stabbed and cut in the side by a woman trying to stop me from arresting the husband who’d just beaten her until she was black and blue. It took 30 stitches to close the wound. You didn’t see that.

A drunk man was trapped inside a burning house. I ran in and pulled him out. Burned my hands and face a bit, but the man survived. You didn’t see that.

I changed a flat tire for two elderly woman who were on their way to Florida. It was nearly midnight and they were stranded and alone on the side of a highway. You didn’t see that.

I worked three straight shifts without sleep or meals while trying to catch a guy who’d raped and murdered a teenager. You didn’t see that.

I bought a meal for a homeless man, and then joined him for lunch. He’d served in the military and suffers from severe PTSD. You didn’t see that.

I stopped to throw a few footballs with some young boys. You didn’t see that.

I adopted a needy family at Christmas time and bought them gifts. My wife and I delivered a holiday meal to them. You didn’t see that.

But you chose to see me when I responded to 911 call in your neighborhood, with all of your friends standing around, and you closed in on my personal space with your face just inches from mine to shout, “Murderer!” even though I’ve never killed anyone.

You threw rocks at me while I patrolled your street, trying to keep you safe from robbers, burglars, and killers.

You spit on me while I was arresting a guy in your neighborhood. It didn’t matter to you that he’d just committed an armed robbery of an old lady and that he’d roughed her up and fondled her “private areas.” To you, though, I was the bad guy. “F*** You! All cops are murderers!” you screamed at me while impressionable little children looked on. Those kids had no way of knowing that I’d never pulled my gun from its holster other than to clean it or qualify at the range.

A police officer a thousand miles away did something to dishonor HIS badge, yet you blame me. Why? I didn’t come to arrest you when I caught your friend climbing in that lady’s bedroom window. I don’t run out to punch a random doctor in the face simply because a physician somewhere in Maine botches a surgery on a cop I don’t know personally. It’s not supposed to work that way in a civilized society. Besides you’ll never catch me defending a cop who knowingly breaks the law.

From A Cop’s Perspective: What You Didn’t See

Here’s what it’s like from my point of view.

When I’m off duty and our kids are on the field playing sports, or we’re both sitting side-by-side at a community picnic and it’s as if we’re best buddies. But the moment I put on the uniform I’m suddenly the enemy. Your enemy. And it’s for no reason—your transformation—other than my clothing and something I didn’t do, that your hatred for me begins to fester and boil over.

Believe me, I don’t change. But you do.

And I see it.

 

Every job has its difficulties. Police work is no different. In fact, I don’t believe there’s another job in the entire world that offers more opportunities to screw up than a career in law enforcement. Think about it. What other business provides its employees with high-powered weapons and live ammunition, a car that you can drive like a $29-dollar-a-day rental, and permission to squirt hot pepper juice in someone’s eyes when all they’ve done is try to bash in your skull? The major problem with each these quirky, but super attractive perks is that they come with a slight disadvantage, the possibility of having to take a human life, or losing your own.

To further complicate the loss of life factor is the split-second decision-making cops are faced with as a part of their everyday routine.

A plumber’s plans are laid out for him—hot on the left, cold on the right, and crap doesn’t flow uphill. Mechanics rely on a little sing-songy phrase about which direction to turn a wrench—Lefty Loosey and Tighty Righty (turn the wrench to the left to remove the bolt, or turn it to the right to tighten it).

But cops often operate in a world of gray. There are no handy-dandy nursery rhymes to guide officers through their tours of duty. But wouldn’t it be great if there were such a thing—a happy verse or two  to help relieve some of the pressure?

You know, like …

Police K-9

Hickory, dickory, dock,

The crook pulled out a Glock.

The cop shot once,

The thug fell down.

Hickory, dickory, dock.


Hey diddle diddle,

The crook stole a fiddle,

The thief jumped over the fence,

The little cop laughed to see such fun,

When his dog caught up with the goon.


 

New Picture (3)

This old man, he was dumb,

He sold crack vials to a bum,

In a locked up, paddy wagon,

Throw away the key;

This dumb guy ain’t coming home.


How much crack could a crackhead smoke if a crackhead could smoke crack?


Georgie Porgie, a ped-o-phile,

Kissed the girls and made them cry,

When the boys came out to play,

Georgie Porgie lost his mind.


Jack and Sam Went Up the Street,

To sell a stolen gun.

Jack took off and ran away,

So Sam went pocket picking.


Jim Plott could smoke no pot

His wife could snort no coke.

And so betwixt the two of them

They both stayed free and clean.


Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,

Catch a robber by the toe.

When he hollers, take the dough,

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.


Here We Go Round the Gangster’s House

Here we go round the gangster’s house,

The gangster’s house,

The gangster’s house,

Here we go round the gangster’s house,

So early in the morning.

 

This is the way we kick their doors,

Kick their doors,

Kick their doors.

This is the way we kick their doors

So early in the morning.

 

This is the way we cuff their wrists,

Cuff their wrists,

Cuff their wrists.

This is the way we cuff their wrists,

So early in the morning.

 

This is the way we lock them up,

Lock them up,

Lock them up,

This is the way we lock them up,

So early in the morning.

 

Here we go round the streets again,

The streets again,

The streets again.

Here we go round the streets again,

So early in the morning.


Tinkle tinkle little drunk,

How I wonder why you pee.

On the seat inside my car,

Like a river it does flow.

 

When you finish you then puke,

Vodka, whiskey, beer and rum,

Then you cuss and spit and fight,

Tinkle tinkle just ain’t right.


Little Boy’n Blue, put on your vest,

The crook’s in the shadows, the gun’s in his hand.

Where is the cop who looks after your back?

He’s lying in the alley, barely alive.

Will you go back? Yes, you must,

For if you don’t, he’s sure to die.


Polly Peters snatched a stack of speckled spectacles. Did Polly Peters snatch the stack of speckled spectacles?

If Polly Peters snatched a stack of speckled spectacles, where’s the stack of speckled spectacles Polly Peters snatched?


Pease-porridge hot, Pease-porridge cold,

Pease-porridge in the pot, nine days old;

Some liked it hot, left out to rot,

Some ate from the pot, died on the spot.


Finally, to the tune of “Five Little Indians” …

 

Five little bad guys punching on his head,

Man fell down and hit the ground.

Witness called the po-leece and the message said,

“We’re defunded ain’t nobody here.”


I know, I’m goofy …

 

Takin' Bacon

Last weekend at MurderCon, one of the classes wound up in a lively discussion about the crime of beastiality (having sex with animals). The presenter, an experienced and entertaining homicide detective from the south, waded into the topic like a true professional, and even explained to the group, the term “stump broke.”


Stump BrokeAn animal who’s trained to back up to a stump where a height-challenged man stands with his pants around his ankles, waiting to have passionate sex with the four-legged beast. 


This sad but true “tale,” “Takin’ Bacon” is about an unpleasant, icky case I once worked.

*** I. HAVE. SEEN. THINGS. ***

I know many of you have already heard the story, so please bear with me as I share it with those who haven’t.

Here goes …

Takin’ Bacon

Crime-solving is not always as easy as television would have us believe. Sometimes police officers really have to work hard to get to the bottom of a particularly complex case.

Cops use a variety of means to crack each of their cases, and one really unusual series of events comes to mind when I think about out-of-the-box methods I’d used during my career.

As most of you know, I was a police detective for many years, and part of my job was to solve major crimes, such as murder, rape, and robbery. Sure, I paid my dues early in my career by writing tickets and directing traffic, but my real passion was the puzzle-solving that’s associated with tracking down murderers.

In the Beginning

Before most detectives are allowed to investigate the more serious crimes, though, they’re normally assigned to easier-to-solve, less intricate cases, such as bad checks and stolen tricycles.

One of my introductory cases was unusual to say the least. It came during my time working as a sheriff’s deputy, and my boss at the time, a gruff and tough-as-rusty-nails sheriff, dispatched me to get to the bottom of a rash of stolen hogs. No, not the cool and expensive motorcycles—real pigs, as in walking, oinking pork chops.

Someone was stealing live four- or five-hundred pound porkers directly from a farmer’s hog farm, and they were taking at least one or two each weekend. The pigs (hundreds upon hundred of them) were kept in many buildings on the large farm, so my partner and I thought the best way to nab these guys was to wait inside one of the elaborate hog parlors until the criminals arrived to do their dirty deed. Our plan was simple; when the crooks entered the building we would jump up, turn on the lights, and nab the ham-rustlers in the act of felony pig-napping.

“The” Weekend

Friday finally arrived and just before dark we entered one of the hog shelters and sat down on a pair of overturned 5-gallon buckets—one apiece—where we waited for the crooks to show up. I quickly discovered that the combined stench of pig feces and urine and other foul goodies were absolutely overwhelming. I also learned that pigs are sneaky and extremely curious, and that they have very cold and very wet and gross noses. Not to mention the fact that the odor clings to your clothing and shoes and refuses to go away.

We’d been hanging out in the dark, surrounded by fat sows, for nearly two hours when we finally heard the creaky sound of rusty springs stretching as someone open a plywood door near the center of the building.

A bit of moonlight spilled inside and then disappeared as the door closed behind who or whomever had entered the pig parlor. My partner and I both drew our weapons and waited, allowing the thieves enough time to begin the act of stealing. We wanted to catch them with ham hocks in hand.

There was a period of time where we heard two voices, but they were muffled by the sound of low-pitched pig grunts and oinks. The men used a small flashlight to help find their way to the center of the area, a place that was packed with so many hogs that it sort of resembled a concert arena on a night when Taylor Swift or Beyonce’ or Elton John performs. It was Pig-a-Palooza and Pigstock rolled into one.

We figured the bandits were being selective, choosing just the right pigs—this little pig or that little pig—that would fetch top dollar at the market.

Then and unexpectedly, a bright light flashed. Then another flash followed by another and another. I realized, detective material that I was, that the bad guys were taking pictures.

Confused by their actions, but anxious to catch the guys, we couldn’t stand it any longer. So we hopped up, aimed our Beretta 9mms in the general direction of the thugs, and switched on the lights.

I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that one of the young men was standing directly behind a female pig—a sow, as they’re properly addressed—with his pants down around his ankles and resting atop the goop on the slatted floor (the space between the slats is where pig most waste falls into a deep and smelly pit).

I was even more startled when I realized the man was actually having sex with a big, fat and dirty female pig, and his buddy was taking pictures of him while he did it.

They both stopped what they were doing, in mid-action, and looked toward us. Each man had the same deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression.

(Not the actual suspect)

(Not the actual victim)

We immediately placed the two crooks under arrest and took them to the sheriff’s office for processing (that’s “booking” to laypeople.) During my questioning of the guy who’d been caught with his pants down, the embarrassed animal lover confessed to stealing over one-hundred pigs from several different farms over the past few weeks, and that they’d taken their “booty” to hog markets and sold them for a nice profit.

At the end of his confession, the pig-stealer shook his head and asked how we found out they were going to be there that night. He added that they’d been extremely careful not to leave behind an evidence trail of any kind.

I smiled because the perfect answer crept forward from that goofy spot in my head. I looked at the guy and said, “How did we know you were coming?  It’s simple, the pig squealed on you.”

He just shook his head slowly from side-to-side. After all, what could he have said to justify his little affair with Petunia?

I really should mention that the thief was married, and he wasn’t practicing safe sex with his porcine partners, if you know what I mean. So, if you’re ever having a bad day, just be really thankful that you’re not married to this guy. Unless you don’t mind that his idea of bringing home the bacon is just a bit “different” than that of normal folks.

By the way, I learned that the purpose of the pig pornography (each man photographed the other having sex with a pig) was insurance so that neither of the two men would tell on the other. If one were to snitch he’d face having the photograph sent to family members.  What I didn’t understand was why they felt the need to have a barnyard affair each time they stole a pig. Wouldn’t one photo be enough?

And I truly hope that you’ll think of this curly little “tale” the next time you’re tossing a couple of juicy pork chops onto the grill …

 

How many times have we all heard that truth is much more difficult to believe than actual events? Well, let me be the next person in line to confirm that statement.

Just when you think you’ve seen and heard it all, these folks picked up the phone and dialed 911. And yes, I was the unfortunate officer who responded to these “emergency” calls.


“911, what is your emergency?”

“Help me, please!”

“Ma’am, calm down and tell me what’s wrong.”

“My house is on fire. I just moved in today and turned on the heat and, and, and, that big metal thing in my living room caught on fire, please huuurrrrryyy! There are flames inside and it’s getting hot! Huuurrrryyy!!! Oh, God, oh God, oh God … MY CAT’S GONNA DIE!”

Okay, so she’s standing there on the front porch with the front door wide open. It’s 20 degrees outside and all she’s wearing  was a t-shirt. Nothing but a t-shirt. And she’s crying and screaming and begging me to go inside to rescue her cat, a cat that was trapped inside the inferno.

I step inside.

“See, it’s on fire. Look through that little glass and you can see the flames.”

“Ma’am, that’s your heater. It uses fire to warm your home. It’s perfectly safe.”

That’s when she realized she was wearing nothing “butt” a t-shirt.

I blushed and departed … quickly.


“911, what’s your emergency?”

“I think my house is on fire.”

“You think your house is on fire? Do you see flames or smoke?”

“No, but my wall’s hot. Would you please send someone over to check it out?”

I go to the door, peek inside, and see the gentleman sitting on his couch watching Jeopardy.

I knock.

“Thanks for coming officer. My house may be on fire. The wall is hot. See. Feel right here.”

“Sir, you have a roaring fire going in the fireplace. Naturally, the wall above it may get a little warm.”

“Thank you, officer. That never occurred to me.”


“911, what is your emergency?”

“Please help me! I’ve been locked inside my bedroom for several hours and can’t get out. I’m getting really hungry, too. And I’m pregnant. Please help me!”

I break a small glass beside the front door and turn the deadbolt latch (see how easy it would be for burglars. Please use/ install a keyed deadbolt for better security, but remove the key from the lock). I open the front door and go inside. Sure enough, she’s locked inside the master bedroom.

She’s crying.

“I think I’m going to lose my baby because I’m so upset.”

More sobbing.

“Ma’am, did you try turning the little button in the center of the knob?”

Silence.

Click.

“I think I have it now. Thank you for coming by.”


“911, what is your emergency?”

“Yeah, um … could you send a cop over here right away, please. I just moved into this apartment and can’t figure out how to turn up the cold water temperature on my kitchen sink. It’s too cold and the landlord won’t help. He just hangs up on me.”

I politely explain to the gentleman that water temperatures are not a true emergency and that cold water temperatures occur naturally. They are what they are because tap water is piped directly from the city. He responds by telling me that I’m a waste of taxpayer money and that I’m part of the reason the country is going down the toilet, another place where the water temperature is non-adjustable.


Finally, my once or twice monthly 911 call.

“911, what’s your—“

“You gotta send someone over right away. Elvis is back inside my refrigerator and he won’t stop singing. He keeps up that wild racket all night long.”


And, while working in plainclothes, I sometimes heard …

“Are you a cop? Because if you are you have to tell me now that I’ve asked. You’re not 5-0? Cool. Now we can do business. You say you want two kilos … hey, wait a minute, you can’t arrest me because you lied about being a cop. This isn’t legal.”

I’m the old guy at the end of the street. The Grumpy Gus who doesn’t want kids in his yard. In fact, I don’t want to hear their squeals and the squalls or their giggles and games. I don’t want to see their toy cars and trucks, their skateboards, basketballs, and pigtails and buzzcuts. None of it. I do not want them in my yard. Nor do I want them in my driveway scrawling cutesy multi-colored chalk pictures across the concrete. I don’t even want them playing in front of my house.

The neighbors talk. They don’t like me because I don’t step outside to chat when they pass by while walking their four-legged pee and crap machines who leave little “bundles of joy” on my property, offensive “stuff” I have to scoop up. I know they leave it on purpose.

The people who live on my street, the adults, think I’m odd. Crazy, some say. They point and they whisper when they see me rolling my garbage cans to the curb each Tuesday evening.

The children won’t stop coming into my yard. They enjoy taunting me. They’re bullies, but in miniature size. They toss my landscaping rocks out into the street and they uproot the accent lighting around my trees and shrubs. They write on my sidewalk and they spray-paint the sides of my car. They’ve scratched both car doors, using a nail or something of the sort, and they steal mail from the mailbox and then scatter it along the street.

I used to like kids. Really, I did. All ages and sizes too. I adored their precious little smiles and their innocent questions and nonstop chatter. I enjoyed watching them play. They made me smile. The sounds of their giggles and yowls and shrieks were like music to my ears.

My house, in fact, was once the hub of activity for the neighborhood kids. They came to play with my two children, Seth and Sarah. They’re both grown now, though, with kids of their own, and they moved away many years ago, long before my current neighbors moved in. I’m the last of the original homeowners in my development.

My new neighbors are strangers. They don’t know a single thing about me. They didn’t know me back when I was still in uniform patrolling the interstate highways and county roads. They didn’t know me on the day when I was stabbed three times—one wound to the head, one in the hand, and the other in my right shoulder. They weren’t around when the house on Maple was fully engulfed in flames and I went in and pulled out the old man trapped inside. Sure, I lost some hair and earned a couple of nasty burns, but the gentleman survived and he stops by to see me once in a while.

My neighbors …. well, they don’t know about the incident that started the “kids in the yard” thing.

It was a Wednesday night. My report indicated the the weather was clear, but no moonlight. Road conditions were also clear, and dry. No obstructions. Nothing, including skid marks. There were none.

When I arrived, a citizen was standing by. She’d called it in. Had to drive to a nearby country store to use the payphone hanging on the wall outside, next to the Coke machine. I’d passed by it a million times.

The car was fully engulfed in flames.

The driver was obviously deceased. The woman on the passenger side, well, her head was missing. I later found it lying in the ditch, staring up at me after I pulled a stand of weeds to the side to better see the object hidden at their base.

Three children occupied the backseat. We didn’t know this until after the firefighters extinguished the blaze.

I only knew about one of the rear seat occupants—a little girl. The medical examiner later told me she was seven-years-old. Hers was the only face I could see through the boiling black smoke and yellow-orange fire with heat was so intense it burned my eyebrows and the hair on my arms before I ever reached the car.

Fifteen feet. That’s as close as I could get without being severely burned.

But she was screaming. “Help me, please!”

Her sweet face was knotted in agony. Her eyes … I’ve read it in books before, “Her eyes pleaded with him,” but I never truly grasped what those authors had in mind when they penned the words … until I stood helpless before a girl whose tiny doe eyes pleaded with me to rescue her from the hell she was experiencing.

Tires deflated and dissolved. Paint bubbled like hot tar. The asphalt beneath the burning car melted like butter dancing and sizzling in a hot skillet. Glass shattered. Flames crackled and buzzed and things inside the car popped and fizzed and banged and settled. Car seats burned like fireplace logs. In the middle of of all of this sat the little girl, clawing at the scorching-hot metal car door.

I pushed through the heat and smoke and I tried to grab the child. I tried to open the door but  it was like grabbing molten lava. I reached for her and she for me. But …

She screamed and she screamed and she screamed.

And then she was calm, and the screaming stopped.

Her pitiful cries for help still haunt me to this day.

So does the fact that I failed to save her.

It’s not that I don’t like kids. I love them. I really do.

I just can’t take the sounds they make, or seeing their happy faces.

They remind me that I failed that little seven-year-old child.

That sweet little face.

I see it every time one of those kids comes into my yard, or when they play in the street in front of my house.

That sweet little face.

So that’s why I’m the old guy at the end of the street.

Because it hurts.

*This tale is based on a ton of fact, but presented in a fictional sort of way. Yes, it’s most definitely true, but it’s about a lot of people, not just Grumpy Gus.

Gus, by the way, is very close to me. Extremely close …